A group of United Nations experts conducting a report on discrimination and violence against women and girls in Mauritania held a conference on October 6th in Nouakchott.
This intervention comes amid controversy surrounding a new bill aimed at combating violence against women, which has been rejected by imams, religious leaders, and parliamentarians who deem it “contrary to Sharia principles.”
According to the group of experts, despite efforts in recent years, violence and discrimination against women remain prevalent in Mauritania. Merskerem Geset Techane, a human rights lawyer and specialist, stated, “Scientific data we have gathered shows that Mauritanian women continue to suffer from patriarchal oppression in areas such as education, healthcare, employment, and political participation. We have also been alerted to gender-based violence within families and communities, including cases of rape and sexual abuse.”
This intervention occurs as a future bill against violence against women, named Karama, is under review. This legislation has faced opposition from some imams and parliamentarians who believe it contradicts Islamic principles and is foreign-inspired.
For the UN expert, while the new bill should undergo consultations, it is crucial to quickly adopt measures to enhance the protection of Mauritanian women, “Certainly, we need to analyze the entire law, taking into account Sharia principles as well as human rights. We have begun our discussions on this. We also call for clearer definitions. However, denying the existence of discrimination against women reinforces impunity in the country.”
The Karama bill is currently in the hands of authorities. On the evening of October 4th, the government clarified that nothing would be proposed that contradicts Sharia law.